If the so-called Great Resignation taught us anything, it’s that employees are looking for more than just a salary when it comes to their jobs. Employee benefits have a crucial part in enhancing engagement, attracting new employees, and retaining top talent.
Employee benefits refer to any form of compensation that employees receive in addition to their base wages or salaries, such as insurance (medical, dental, life), stock options, and cell phone plans.
During the recent State of HR in Asia-Pacific survey, it became clear that HR professionals are thinking more strategically about the benefits they offer employees. According to the survey, 35.52% of professionals are offering wellness benefits, while 34.15% have implemented employee assistance programs (EAPs). More than a quarter are offering childcare support (25.41%) and 24.04% include mental health coaching.
Nowadays, employee benefits extend far beyond these examples, encompassing a wide range of offerings, including training opportunities and stock options, mental health breaks, and even a few more unusual perks. Here are just a few:
PwC Australia has always done things differently, including famously abolishing its employee dress code in 2017. The company partnered with health and fitness companies across the continent to offer compelling health and fitness perks to their staff.
“The well-being of our people is critical now, but the focus will continue to grow, and we’ll need to enhance the support provided. Employees are increasingly looking to their employer to provide support in all aspects of their life – we’ll need to continue to evolve our value proposition to meet these needs,” says Catherine Walsh, Head of People and Culture at PwC Australia.
Employee wellness programs are essential perks to offer because they prioritize the well-being and health of employees, leading to numerous benefits for both individuals and organizations. By providing wellness initiatives such as fitness programs, mental health support, healthy lifestyle resources, and stress management techniques, employers demonstrate their commitment to the overall well-being of their workforce. Wellness programs have also been known to reduce absenteeism and burnout.
The power nap system may seem unusual, but it’s commonplace in Japan. Called inemuri (or the principle of sleeping at work) was added as a perk by companies like the construction firm Okuta years ago. Japanese workers are generally hesitant to take time off, work more overtime than other countries, and generally get less sleep. Napping on the job has become commonplace, with several businesses installing special sleep pods for workers. Power naps can be a valuable employee perk due to their positive impact on productivity and well-being.
Offering dedicated spaces or designated break times for power naps recognizes the importance of rest and rejuvenation in maintaining optimal performance. Short periods of sleep have been shown to enhance cognitive function, memory, and creativity, allowing employees to return to their tasks with improved focus and alertness. Power naps can help combat midday fatigue, reducing the likelihood of errors and accidents.
Australian airline Qantas offers staff generous perks when they are traveling, including 25% off Qantas flights, 10% off hotel bookings, 15% off car rentals, and discounts on airport parking, tours, and cruises. This not only attracts employees who love to travel but gives staff an opportunity to experience traveling with Qantas first-hand. In addition, by extending discounts on various travel-related expenses, Qantas demonstrates its commitment to supporting the travel experiences of its staff, creating a positive work environment, and promoting a culture of work-life balance.
According to a blog post by Salesforce Australia, 93% of employees who engage in pro-bono work feel happier and more purposeful, while 91% believe they are productive and engaged. The survey also found that employees who volunteer are 40% more likely to stay with the company. That’s why Salesforce Australia offers employees seven days off every year to spend volunteering. “It’s a great feeling to know that we’re helping the environment as well as the community. Plus, the benefits for the team were getting to know each other outside of work, building connections, and having fun,” says Angelica Veness, Senior Manager of Solution Engineering at Salesforce.
Deloitte Singapore introduced a generous sabbatical policy as part of their Work-Life Integration program. Audit and Assurance Associate at Deloitte Singapore Clement Chow took a 12-month sabbatical to care for his young son but had previously taken time off (with a paid allowance) to compete as a Team Singapore triathlete.
Deloitte Australia also introduced a program called Career Flex that allows staff to take three months’ unpaid leave to study, refresh, or travel.
Balance and Breaks
Most companies have maternity (and sometimes paternity) leave, family responsibility leave, and study leave on offer for employees who need it, but others are thinking differently about the breaks employees might need. Hime & Company in Japan gave staff two mornings off per year to attend sales as well as “heartbreak vacations” for employees going through breakups several years ago; today, it’s available from businesses in Japan, Germany, and other countries. The policy was popular enough to become part of Japan’s labor laws in 2020.
While those examples might sound unusual, recognizing that employees need time off to spend on personal matters can have a big impact on their well-being, engagement, and overall job satisfaction.
Chinese mega-brand Alibaba provided staff with an extremely generous leave package following a challenging period in the company, including giving employees seven days paid leave to attend family reunions following COVID, ten extra days of leave for new parents, and a once-off twenty days of leave for employees who have worked for the company for ten years or more. This is a true reflection of Alibaba’s company values, which states: “Work is for now, but life is forever. We want our employees to treat life seriously when they work and enjoy work as one enjoys life. We respect the work-life balance decisions of every individual.”
ICICI Bank in India is known for its generous employee benefits, but they’ve recently upped the ante by introducing an ESOP program (employee stock option scheme) for employees. The company allotted equity shares to employees under the ICICI Bank Employees Stock Option Scheme 2000.
Stock options give employees the opportunity to become partial owners of the company. This sense of ownership can foster a stronger connection and alignment between employees and the organization’s goals and performance. When employees have a stake in the company’s success, they are more likely to work towards its growth and profitability.
Whereas some Japanese companies are offering naps on company time in response to their over-commitment to work, others are leaning into compressed work weeks. Panasonic started offering employees the option of taking a four-day workweek. Considering that only 8% of Japanese companies offer more than two guaranteed days of leave a week, it’s a radical policy.
With an extra day off each week, employees have more time for personal activities, hobbies, and spending quality time with family and friends. This improved work-life balance can lead to reduced stress levels, increased job satisfaction, and overall well-being.
While it may seem counterintuitive, many studies and real-world examples have shown that reducing the workweek to four days can actually boost productivity. With a shorter workweek, employees tend to be more focused, motivated, and efficient in completing their tasks. They often prioritize their work, avoid unnecessary distractions, and find innovative ways to increase productivity within the reduced timeframe.
According to recent research, more than three in every four Singaporeans are interested in jobs offering a four-day workweek.
“In mature economies like Singapore, it starts to become about the quality of life and what work means,” says Jaya Dass, MD of Randstad Singapore as reported by CNBC. According to Das, Singaporeans are not willing to sacrifice their personal lives for their careers anymore and find a four-day workweek very appealing.
Being a Standout Employer with Unique Benefits
The APAC region is a diverse and competitive market. Offering unique perks can help organizations stand out as attractive employers, attracting and retaining top talent. With some of these examples, we’ve seen how innovative perks related to work-life balance and well-being can resonate well with the local workforce. By offering interesting employee benefits, you can differentiate yourself, boost employee satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge in the talent market.
By Francesca Di Meglio
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network